London is one of the most iconic cities in the world. It’s famed for its cosmopolitan makeup with cultures, tastes, and fashions from every part of the world. So how can you possibly see the city in only one day? The short answer is you can’t. In fact, even with a month long vacation, you still won’t be able to see the entire city. So when I had a 24 hour layover in London, I set off to see as much as I possibly could.

Excellent public transportation

Double-Decker-BusWhen you don’t have much time, you’ll want to spend as little time possible in transit. Thankfully the public transportation system consisting of the “underground” subway system, double decker busses and iconic black taxis are all fast means of getting you where you want to be. Because there is a steep congestion charge to drive your own vehicle inside of London, the streets aren’t as crowded as you might expect. This is good for those taking public transportation as busses rarely get caught in traffic. I suggest buying a day ticket for just over 15 US dollars. This will get you unlimited travel on busses and the underground for the day.

st-martins-theatre

Next, map out what is most important for you to see. There are many iconic tourist destinations such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye and the London Bridge. These popular sites can all be seen in one long day. How do I know? Because I did! In addition I even managed to squeeze in a very entertaining show called the Mouse Trap at St. Martin’s Theater. The show is the longest running show of all time. Happening every night for almost 70 years! Tickets start under 30 US dollars.

Westminster-AbbeyGoogle maps is your best friend while getting around. The public transportation tab will show you live train and bus times and the fastest way to get where you’re going. Check with your cell carrier prior to going abroad to add an international data plan. AT&T offers a day pass for $10 that allows you to use your phone’s current plan just as if you were at home. Money well spent.

Many sites such as Westminster Abbey offer guided tours included in the somewhat steep admission price of around 15 US dollars off peak or $30 peak times. Another handy and free tour option is the Rick Steves Audio Europe app which gives self guided audio tours of some of Europe’s most popular sites. Tip: Bring wireless headphones to share if you’re traveling with another person.

Another tip, all museums and galleries funded by the government are free but long lines tend to form. Get there early or check the website in advance in case reservations are offered.

steak-coThere are countless great places to eat in London but dining out can be expensive so be prepared to spend
at least $2o per person for an affordable meal. A nice meal will likely cost upwards of $50. Check TripAdvisor or Yelp for recommendations nearby. I ate at a local fish and chips spot for lunch which cost about $20. For dinner I splurged at a hip steak house called Steak & Co offering steaks cooked right at your table on a sizzling stone $50.

By this time, you’ll probably be exhausted but if you’re determined to see more, London will stay up late with you. Take the underground to Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square for late night shopping, dining and entertainment.

Do you have suggestions or must see spots in London? Comment below!